HELP! i'm starting my first aquarium. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 05:51 AM Thread Starter
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Red face HELP! i'm starting my first aquarium.

so i'm starting my first aquarium. my parent's have limited me to 10gal. my intended inhabitants are:
a pair of powder blue dwarf gourami's,
four lyre tail guppies,
and a white mystery snail.
(that's not set in stone yet, so if you have any suggestions on what i should or shouldn't keep, i'd be glad to hear them.)

being the kind of person i am i can't make anything simple, so i've got a really adorable (and complicated) lil plan for how i'd like to plant it. my theme is the kids book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

here's what i hope it will look like:
(please excuse my horrible scientifically inaccurate little doodle and blatant misuse of photoshop brushes.)


i'm not set on those plants either so if you can think of anything that would work better let me know! though i don't really want anything to cover the back, 'cause i'm going to make a orig illustration and get a laminated print to tape to the back. sounds cool huh?

i'm also thinking about Whorled Pennywort (it's just so cute!) but i think i may be hard to grow. :/



so here's what i really need advice wise, if some kind person is willing to give it. o_~

firstly (and probably most importantly) does anyone know any books i should read on planted aquariums? i've already read The Simple Guide To Freshwater Aquariums by David E. Boruchowitz, cover to cover. and while it had a lot of good info on fish/cycling/water quality/filters/etc. i'm still in the dark about aquatic plants...

what should i use as substrate?

do i need to fertilize? in my veggie gardens i always used rabbit poop, but i don't think that would work too well in a aquarium... XD

what considerations do i need to make for my (very very) hard water?

what lighting should i get? i think i'll need pretty high light for the plants i picked so far, and also so the light will penetrate my lil faux tree to the plants below...

is co2 really necessary? if so, what kind should i get that's inexpensive? (i'd rather splurge on a nicer filter than have co2... maybe i could do without co2 for now and save for one later?)




please don't feel overwhelmed by my giant list of n00b questions!! if you only want answer one or two that's totally fine!


-thanks in advance!
Chartruse Boots (aka: Rachel)
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:06 AM
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My advice is get out while your young. Put down the water bucket and back away! It will never end - it always starts with a cute 10 gallon - mine was recreation of a castle and mountains...with a two little frogs and a small school of zebras'

But seriously - great picture.

My real advice is get wet...no amount of planning will prepare you for the
problems...algae, tank cycles, too little light, too much light etc... but know
that planted tanks are life - and it almost always finds a way to equalize.

Read lots of posts, read lots of internet pages, don't waste your money on books - most of the info is already online somewhere - be patient - don't overreact and be prepared - mentally, financially and spiritually that your first attempt might fail - but you will succeed.

everyone is a noob once.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:19 AM Thread Starter
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well pranks, the good news is i've already gotten wet. i work at PetSmart and one of my jobs is maintaining the fish wall. in fact a lot of the research i've already done is just to answer customer questions, as almost everyone else on my department is retarded. -__-;; infact just today i nearly had to leap in front of a coworker to keep them from selling some poor lady a great big goldfish without asking how big her aquarium was. turns out it was the size of a 'goldfish bowl'. i hope the irony of that is not lost anyone here. XP
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:28 AM
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Ah what a thoughtful post! I lub your doodling!

I'll take a shot at a few of your questions.

This forum and others are going to be a superior source of information for your planted tank.

Substrate: You can use anything from plain ol' aquarium gravel to planted-tank specific products. Being your tank is so small I would suggest Eco-Complete, it should cost you no more then $20 for a bag. Flourite is an option if you like the color.

Light/CO2: These are dependant on each other. If you want to grow high light plants you will need CO2 to ward off algae. In a 10g that would be more then ~40watts of lighting. I would highly suggest getting a 36w AHsupply retro. http://www.ahsupply.com/36-55w.htm . Keeping you lighting lower, dosing Excel, and having a decent fishload, along with proper plant selection and you can avoid pressurized CO2 and dry ferts.

If you have your heart set on highlight plants perhaps some people can suggest some small CO2 systems, like RedSea. Really take a look at some "low tech" no CO2 fishload-fert tanks first though. They are still quite pretty and low hassle.

BTW: you can buy inexpensive ferts at http://www.rexgrigg.com/. Also read his sections on lighting and fertilizing for an overview of the science.

Hard water: It's either fight it or embrace it. I would just embrace it to be honest. There are plenty of plants and nice fish that enjoy hard water. Pristella maxillaris, Pseudomugil furcatus, Pseudomugil gertrudae are good examples. Gouramis also love hard water!

I'm sure others can help you with lowtech undemanding plants if you choose to go that route. Check out the lowtech section.

Last edited by lemonlime; 11-17-2007 at 10:57 AM.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:31 AM
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Well I guess you'll learn really fast by working at Petsmart. Especially if your co-workers are retards. You're not on commission so you can turn away as many uneducated customers as you want.

For books, go to your local library. The books will most likely have some inaccurate and outdated information. Don't bother buying any books as most likely they'll be outdated, but they are a good start to get a solid understanding of things. The best are forums and articles written by other more experienced hobbyists. Ideas are constantly being debated and updated. As well, forum members don't have any incentives to make money off you, so what they say should be helpful. Most important, be discerning of information. The more you know, the more you know what's good advice and bad advice.

BTW that design is really good. When I planted my first tank I just stuck everything in there without thinking at all.

The plants aren't demanding at all too!

I just read up on pelia. It stays afloat in the beginning, and it's very brittle so it breaks off. So be careful about it. You can tie cotton string to the pelia against the driftwood, by the time the cotton string breaks down, the pelia should have grown into it.

As for equipment, if you want high lighting, you'll need CO2, which means you need fertilizers. A very crude way to explain it is that the lighting is the gas pedal, and the CO2 and fertilizers are the fuel. If you have lots of light, plants use up CO2 and nutrients real fast, which means things can go awry that much faster.

CO2 isn't very expensive if you DIY. Some water, sugar and regular yeast mixed in a coke bottle, some airline tubing, a DIY reactor with a bell, airstone or a store-bought reactor and you're set.

As for lighting, a 10 gallon shouldn't be hard. Either buy a light set like the ones from Coralife or go to ahsupply.com for a DIY power compact kit.

Substrate: I suggest investing on a good planted substrate to save you the trouble of changing your mind later. Flourite, Eco-complete, Aquasoil, etc are good. You could mix cheaper regular substrate as a filler to save money.

Fertilizers: You can do dry ferts, which is the cheapest in the long run, but will have your parents wondering what you are doing with tubs of chemicals, or go for commercial products, which are pretty much the same, except pre-packaged and more expensive. Or good old fish waste + decaying plant matter is good.

If you work at Petsmart, shouldn't you get discounts? So maybe save a few dollars there.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:54 AM Thread Starter
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wow thanks, i'll definitely be doing alot of internet research and snooping around the forums for info. but it will take alot more than that to separate me from my books. -hugs books- there's just nothing like falling asleep with your face in a book, nose full of that 'old library' smell, and your head buzzing with useless information. oops! my inner nerd is showing. ;P

dekstr, the good news with the lady and her tiny aquarium was she was more than willing to be educated. most people are happier being corrected than left unaware till something dies. the best part is i convinced her to get a nice little beta who should be happy in a small aquarium. (anythings better than those tiny plastic cups right? XD )
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:58 AM
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Definitely.

I can never fall asleep with a book. I either finish one all the way, or stop and do something else. But I find it hard to fall asleep while in the moment of reading line to line.

Bettas in plastic containers = worst idea ever! My older brother kept one in a glass drinking CUP! He did "water changes" by flushing the betta into another cup with tap water (possibly at unequal temperature, without dechlorinating), dumping out the old water, and adding new un-dechlorinated tap water back in.

Even feeder fish get their own tank right?
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 07:26 AM Thread Starter
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yeah even our feeder fish get a tank, though it's over crowded be cause we keep getting shipped too many. but it's okay because the filters we've got running those thing are the size if a small car, and we test the water twice a day. don't feel too bad for our betta's either, we change their (correct temp/de-chlorinated/supplemented) water every day, and we haven't had a single one die yet, then again the store has only been open a few weeks...
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 07:41 AM
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Are you still in school? I like your drawing, I see talent there.
1. Go with the quality lighting from the start, AH Supply.
2. There are a bunch of suitable substrates, figure out how much you have to spend on substrate and go from there.
3. Yes you need to fertilize. Post in swap n shop for some, you will not need a lot.
4. Post in swap in shop for plants when you are ready.
5. Yes you will need CO2. Answer my first question and I will elaborate.....DC
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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yup, i'm still in school. i'm a senior, so i'm saving for art college and all that good stuff. i'm hoping to become an illustrator.

i'm still in the dark about lighting. (cheesy pun intended, lol) there are so many kinds. @[email protected] i'm wondering if a lamp i already have might work? i have a big floor lamp that is currently hanging right over where i intend to put my aquarium. the bulb for it says: FML-27W 6400k FUDIX (i'm not sure what that means ^__^;; ) here's the closest thing i could find online:

mine looks the same, it's just one number off. of course, that one number could mean everything or nothing. i have no idea.

so would that work? or is it too strong/not strong enough? if i go that route i'd have to get a glass cover though. no cover isn't an option since i've got a cat.


i'll probably pick some substrate from work since i'd rather not pay S&H for something that heavy. i think we carry eco-complete, which sounds pretty good. plus i get a 15% discount.

still totally confused by CO2. i thought aeration was good, but now i'm being told it's not? because it losses CO2? i mean, i guess it make sense that healthier plants will produce more oxygen for the fish? either way alot the critters i picked so far are labyrinth breathers so if i mess something up, i should notice before something dies.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 03:31 PM
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That light that you have looks good. A 27W CF (compact fluorescent) on a ten gallon isn't a ton of light, but if your lamp has a good reflector, it will work for now. Too bad you can't go without a glass top on the tank. Just try to keep the top's condensation low and the mineral deposits (from evaporation) clean.
Try to adjust the lamp so you can keep the light close to the top of the tank, (within 6" for sure)--the closer the better, & it should be good enough to start.
The number difference in your 6400K vs the picture's 6500K lamp relates to the "color temperature" of the light the bulb emits. It is measured in K, degrees Kelvin. Low numbers are more red, even infrared, and high numbers are blue to vioulet and even ultraviolet light.
In your case, it is a number that doesn't make a hugh difference. It is in the range of readily useable light for plants. 5000K-10000K
A lot of plant bulbs will be 6700K. This is prety close to the white light of sunlight. A red sunset might be in the 5000K range, and 10000K is the color temperature of the intense blue-white light in the equatorial tropics.

You would probably like this tank:
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 04:33 PM
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Nice pic, I would suggest reconsidering the mystery, it might be a little rough on some of your more delicate plant species, having such a big mouth and all. maybe some red ramshorns or a nerite would be a better choice. They're poop machines too, not such a bad thing in a planted tank, but a lot of detritus could build up fast from it in a 10gl. Lots of supplemental veggy feeding required also. That's just my suggestion though, I'm sure you could make it work.

My other suggestion would be to add more substrate transition to your concept, like the pic in the last post, rather than just a flat grass carpet. Especially if you plan on leaving the back bare of plants, it'll add some depth to the overall visual.

I've been wanting to do a tree for a while, but the tank in the last post made me want to throw in the towel and bow on one knee


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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 06:17 PM
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[QUOTE=Chartreuse Boots;486451]yup, i'm still in school. i'm a senior, so i'm saving for art college and all that good stuff. i'm hoping to become an illustrator.

PM me your name/address, I will send you a Hagen CO2 Natural Plant System to help get you started. Never lose sight of your dream to become an illustrator. I believe several members here are in that field and will hopefully offer some guidance.......DC
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-17-2007, 10:12 PM
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I'm not sure what exactly you would like your red plants to look at, but by your drawing, I would suggest looking at Rotala Colorata. It looks more like that then the sunset hygro.

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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-18-2007, 12:38 AM
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Very nice.

I would recommend you start off with an AquaClear 20 or 30 power filter.

If you would like to have something simpler and can dissolve CO2 pretty decently with minimal gassing away, Wassperpet, I believe, has a simple power head and a foam piece as a filter.

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